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Cigarettes suspected in two separate fires

Cigarettes are the likely culprit in two recent fires put out by Spokane Valley Fire Department crews, but the two incidents had radically different outcomes.

The first fire was reported at 3:30 p.m. on Aug. 10 in the 16600 block of East Fourth Avenue. Two passers-by spotted a small fire on the balcony of a third-floor apartment, said Fire Marshal Kevin Miller. One man called 911 while the other climbed up the outside of the building with a fire extinguisher, Miller said. Firefighters finished the job when they arrived.

“It burned a hole in the deck,” he said. “It was pretty close to taking off.” The fire was apparently caused when someone tried to put out a cigarette in a potted plant, Miller said.

Things were different on Aug. 14 when a neighbor spotted a fire at 1:20 p.m. at the Cedar Chateau Estates, 13310 E. Mission Ave. The fire again began on an apartment balcony, but spread to other balconies and the attic, causing $100,000 in damage before it could be put out. Four apartments were damaged.

“It appears to be accidental,” Miller said. “It happened right at the slider door on the balcony. We do know the residents are smokers, however we haven’t exactly pinpointed it.”

Several other fire calls added to the 255 calls the department received from Aug. 9 to Aug. 15.

A fire in a process furnace at Inland Metallurgical Services was reported the afternoon of Aug. 9.

“The system itself had a fire extinguishing system that eventually took care of it, but they were having a lot of smoke and that’s why they called us,” Miller said.

The crew of Engine 6 was returning from a call at 10:30 p.m. on Aug. 11 when they spotted an unreported brush fire in the Dishman Hills. The small fire was quickly put out, and the cause hasn’t been determined, Miller said.

“It was very fortunate they happened to be in the neighborhood to see it,” he said.

A brush fire started at the Spokane County Fairgrounds at 2:45 p.m. on Aug. 12 when people were repositioning antique train cars that are on display. Some of the brakes were locked up, which caused sparks, Miller said. “It did cause a little stir,” he said. “It burned about an acre of weeds and grass.”

A malfunctioning HVAC compressor filled the Horizon Credit Union on Mullan Road with smoke the morning of Aug. 13. A small, smoldering fire in a flowerbed reignited and spread to a nearby house in the 11000 block of East Sixth Avenue in the early morning of Aug. 14.

Two children had previously been playing with matches in the area, Miller said. They apparently believed they had put out the fire, but it smoldered undetected for several hours, he said.

Crews were called to Ed’s Motorcycle Service, 6605 E. Sprague Ave., the morning of Aug. 15. Smoke and flames were reported in the basement, which was filled with various combustible materials. Some gasoline had pooled while employees worked on a motorcycle, Miller said.

“They went to start it and the whole thing caught on fire,” he said.

There was some smoke damage to the business after employees worked to put out the fire before firefighters arrived.

Recent fires in the area have apparently made some people more alert to fire danger. A resident in the 17100 block of East 23rd Avenue called 911 to report seeing smoke the afternoon of Aug. 15.

“It was actually just the mist of a sprinkler that was blowing,” Miller said. “It just goes to show you how nervous everyone is.”

Fire crews responded to two calls on Aug. 10 for young children with various appendages stuck in furniture. Both were freed without injury. Crews also responded to a 2-year-old girl accidentally locked inside a car on Aug. 11. Firefighters were unable to gain access to the car, which was a newer model, Miller said.

“We ended up breaking her window to get in,” he said. “She was OK with that. The kid was getting hot.”

The department also responded to 15 car accidents, four of them with minor injuries, and 194 EMS calls.